Work and other things ‘Well Done’: Thoughts on Episode 5–“Awl”

Recently, the US Powerball Lotto had a humongous jackpot–over a billion dollars. I found it interesting that there were many stories on the news advising the jackpot winner(s) to not quit their jobs as soon as they knew they won. The theory was that going to work provided some continuity and kept day-to-day life from getting out of control after winning a huge sum of money. It was postulated that many people lose their identity after they quit their jobs. Maybe the ‘experts’ are right–I’ll never know because I didn’t win, lol!  I know personally I would be very tempted to leave my job ASAP–only because there are so many other things I want to do with my life. 

*screencaps from Dramacool.to*

Episode 5–While Jun Cheol is at the disciplinary hearing, his buddy Kang Min sits dejectedly on the loading dock. A produce supplier drives his truck up and asks KM where Jun Cheol is today. KM stammers out that JC is working, and the driver leaves. We get a flashback to KM and JC talking about the upcoming hearing. JC is concerned because KM is not telling him that everything will turn out peachy. JC knows his wedding is around the corner, which adds to the worry:

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KM assures him that he was gonna get fired anyways, so he has nothing to lose by going this route. JC muses that he only knows how to chop fish and sell it, so if this hearing ends badly he could be in a pile of trouble:

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KM tells JC that they can still work at their business: “Joo and Hwang Produce”. JC says if their produce business fails, KM can start over, but he can’t. KM has wealthy parents, but he does not. Hmmm. That’s interesting. So why is KM working at the grocery store? If his parents are so freakin’ wealthy, why is he not working at their business, studying abroad, or going to college? Filed away for future reference.

KM is running out of patience with his friend, but he still gives him some good advice:

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Ahhh, JC is such a gentle and softhearted soul. He’s just not cut out for an ugly fight. No wonder his boss Manager Heo targeted him first.

Back at the hearing, Gaston tells JC to sit down, and the meeting is finally started. JC looks like he could toss his cookies at any second:

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The HR director reads the charges against JC while we see in flashback what really happened at the Wild ‘n’ Crazy Norebang Party.

Side note–the subbers call it a ‘karaoke’ club, which is a Japanese word. I know that many viewers are more familiar with the word ‘karaoke’ than ‘norebang’, but I find it kind of humorous.

He’s accused of taking $300 (figure in USD given by subbers) worth of ‘entertainment’. JC is also accused of also accepting a monetary gift from the CEO of Young Kwang Fish Company. Was that the cab fare JC referred to in the previous episode? What’s cab fare in Seoul? Maybe $10-40 USD? Sheesh! Not exactly serious bribe fodder if you ask me. After the charges are read, JC is immediately asked by the head HR guy:

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Yeah, nothing like a kangaroo court hearing! JC caves in a half-second, and pleads guilty. However, he states that Manager Heo was there too, and:

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Gahhh, look at his sweet and innocent face! (Is Yesung really 31?!? He could easily pass for 18 in this show.) Manager Heo shoots him a venomous look; then the HR guy turns and asks:

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Of course, Manager Heo lies like the dog we all know he is:

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He says he was at a meeting with Pung San (?) company, which he can verify. WTH! He was there, the lying liar! Yikes! JC is additionally accused of demanding ‘excessive’ gifts *snort* from the Young Kwang Fish Company, and threatened to stop doing business with them. But in a flashback, we viewers get to see this was hardly the case. In fact, the supplier was ready to poach JC right outta Fourmis Mart:

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Too bad JC didn’t take this guy up on his offer. JC starts to realize that the deck has been stacked against him in a big way. Even Sung Min, the Big Dummy from last episode that KM tried to get on JC’s side has been paid off, threatened, blackmailed or whatever to give false testimony that JC was the only one at the Wild ‘n’ Crazy Norebang Party. The HR guy asks JC if he admits to this, and he says No Way–this is all about Manager Heo. HR guy wants to know if all these witnesses are lying, and if so, why. JC answers that if the suppliers don’t help Manager Heo, they will lose the store’s business. Makes sense to me. Manager Heo asks JC if he thinks:

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Uhh…Yes! I think you did!

Manager Heo huffs and puffs, then he calls the waaaahmbulance after reminding everyone how much he helped JC:

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And caps it off by calling JC a “two-faced bastard”! I’m surprised he doesn’t choke on the hypocrisy of his own words–and need a real ambulance!

Finally, JC is asked if he would like to introduce any evidence. He produces a document from a former Fourmis worker stating:

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Manager Heo counters this accusation:

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Heh. Are you looking a little worried and stressed out there, Manager Heo?! Immediately this evidence is dismissed by Manager Jung as retribution for being fired. HR drone from the previous episode asks if the former worker was there at the Wild ‘n’ Crazy Party, but JC admits he was not in attendance. Crumbs. We then see a flashback of Manager Heo blackmailing the suppliers into writing the statements:

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#told ya so!

No surprises here, or that just as things look the worst for JC, he starts to cry. He asserts one last time that none of the accusations are true, and that his boss was indeed at the party as the meeting is adjourned. Manager Jung can’t resist the chance to totally humiliate JC:

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JC begs for one more chance; he can’t believe that Sung Min and the Young Kwang Fish Company manager would say these things.

Cut to Goo Go Shin, meeting with the mystery lady from the Norebang at a coffee house. Check out the interesting cinematography in this shot:

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The bright light coming in the window behind GGS….the windowpane dividing these two characters, the pastel colors. It’s like we are peering in the window, watching them. So beautiful. However, this lady does not appear to have a whole lotta goodwill toward GGS:

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GGS looks plenty uncomfortable, as we cut back to Fourmis and Lee Soo In, who is worriedly waiting outside the meeting room. Inside, the meeting is adjourned and JC starts to cry again. Manager Heo gets in one last dig:

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I think that Manager Heo calls JC a bastard in this scene, because that’s what I hear but I’m not sure. He tries to haul JC out of the room, but JC has miraculously grown a spine! Yay!

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Manager Heo yells back to JC–Prove that I was there! At that moment, Lee Soo In walks in and announces:

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Oooooh, what’s this? The lady from the norebang is ushered into the hearing room. Seems like she changed her mind about being a witness. LSI states she was there at the Wild ‘n’ Crazy party. TBH–she looks less than thrilled to be at the hearing.

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Regardless of how unhappy she is to be there, she tells the truth and states that Manager Heo was there with JC at the party. Her testimony is attacked immediately, as she divulges she was there as a hostess. Uh, oh. She repeats that she is sure she saw Manager Heo at the norebang that night, and adds in this recalled detail for good measure. She distinctly remembers:

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JC jumps on that as he also remembers Manager Heo drunkenly fumbling with his glasses when he got in the cab. Unfortunately, Manager Jung isn’t going to let this lady’s truthful testimony get in the way of sticking it to JC. He asks her if she can describe any of the men that were partying last night at the norebang. When she stalls, he asks why she can remember Manager Heo but not the men that were there last night. LSI tries to apply the brakes to this situation:

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Manager Jung shifts into high gear, and attacks her testimony. The room was dark, everybody was drinking…

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LSI is furious, and the lady is shaking in fear. LSI asks:

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Manager Jung contends that since she is a norebang hostess, she meets a lot of different dudes everyday. Then he really steps in it:

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and adding that for ‘a couple of dimes’ she’d do anything. Holy cow! Did he just insinuate that she’s basically a prostitute? Aaaacckk! The head HR guy calmly asks if she can produce any physical evidence like a picture or a recording. Too bad the CCTV cameras in the rooms were fakes, so that’s a no-go. Manager Jung dismisses the lady and LSI, and they leave the room. LSI keeps his cool, but looks furious. She stumbles as she leaves, and LSI apologizes. A very dejected JC is informed by the committee that his manager will let him know of their decision. Manager Heo drags him out of the room, and tells JC to focus on his upcoming wedding, which he promises to attend! Wow. That’s OTT cruel. Poor JC is almost in a catatonic state:

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JC collapses on the floor, dropping his phone in the process. There’s some kind of charm or trinket attached to the phone that reminds JC of something, and he comes back to life in an instant. One of the suppliers who gave a (false) affidavit against JC was Byun Jin Hyuk. JC starts going through the papers looking for the one with his testimony as Manager Jung starts to yell. Then he checks his text messages. Here’s the real evidence of Manager Heo’s lying lips:

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Byun Jin Hyuk had gone to the Philippines on vacation that month. He bought the little phone trinket as a gift for JC. JC asks a shocked Manager Jung:

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#inquiring minds want to know

I’d like to acquaint Managers Heo and Jung with a familiar saying here at Shamrockmom’s house: “Why don’t you put that in your juice box and suck it?” JC rightfully accuses the board members of fabricating evidence against him. Managers Heo and Jung are stunned. LSI is listening to the increasing chaos from outside the door. Manager Jung asks if this evidence produced by JC can be verified, and the HR drone asserts:

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JC says the seafood department at Fourmis makes the vacation schedule, and asks Manager Heo to cough up the documentation–and not a fabricated one either! Now Manager Heo looks like he’s gonna toss his cookies:

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Side note–I have to include this screencap from HITTG Episode 19. It’s so perfect for Manager Heo. Evil Mommy Han, lay it on him!

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The HR guys give LSI a disgusted look as they leave the conference room, and the scene cuts to the Head Honcho of Fourmis in Korea. He’s griping to someone about why things couldn’t be handled better, and although we don’t get to see his face in this scene, this guy sounds like Jabba the Hutt:

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In reality, it’s the same actor who played Ho Gu’s kind and wise dad in “Ho Gu’s Love” and Sun Woo’s equally awesome dad in “Spy”.

LSI goes into the meeting room after pushing past a very PO’d Gaston, and congratulates JC:

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“Well done” is also the condition of Manager Heo’s backside right about now!

Kang Min and Dong Hyub are out in the store stocking the shelves and anxiously awaiting the verdict from the disciplinary hearing. LSI arrives with JC, and their expressions makes words unnecessary:

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#cute smiles!

KM can hardly contain himself. The other employees take note:

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Jung Min cries in happiness, while Sang Min aka The Big Dummy looks like he wants to crawl under a rock:

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#whattajackass

Yunno, Sang Min–if JC wanted to beat the snot out of you right now, I might turn my head and ‘forget’ to look. JC would never do that though…he’s too much of a nice guy. DH comes up and gives JC a quick arm squeeze of support too. LSI goes back to stocking the veggies, and narrates that he considers this a win since JC only received a reprimand. Therefore:

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I’ll be honest here….the first 20 minutes of this episode is cracktastic drama viewing for Shamrockmom. I might even call this “justice porn“, lol! I live for the baddies getting their fair share of Karma in DramaLand. It’s so rare…I wonder what the repercussions to Managers Heo and Jung will entail. It better be major. I also want to comment on the fine acting skills of Yesung in this intense set of scenes. For a rookie actor, he’s doing exceptionally well!

KM gets union membership applications from Young Sil and Jung Mi:

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The ladies admit they didn’t just join because of what happened to JC. They were actually stalling because of LSI’s involvement in the union. Really?! KM defends LSI:

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Jung Mi says fugeddaboudit–it’s because KM is involved that they are joining the union! LSI is eavesdropping on the conversation, while trying not to look too obvious, and he narrates that since the incident with JC, the workers don’t seem to be as fearful of the bosses. He sends a text message to GGS: “We won”.

GGS is napping in his Jeep Cherokee (?) that looks like it survived a small war. His phone buzzes unnoticed as he mentally replays the meeting with the lady from the norebang. He asks if her child (?) is in middle school, and she says yes–and adds that she hates GGS! She’s serious:

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But she does it for her children’s sake. Whoa, is she his ex-wife? WTH happened between these two?

GGS asks about someone named Cheol Seung, and we get a flashback to a labor union protest. The workers are chanting as the police (outfitted in riot gear) stand by. Suddenly there is a confrontation between the police and the striking workers. The lady tells GGS that she hasn’t seen Cheol Seung lately, but she hears about him from time to time. He’s not in good shape either because she says that he can’t find a job due to his age and his medical issues. We get another quick view of the beatdown the police are inflicting on the striking workers as the lady tells GGS that her husband (okay, that’s cleared up) would come home all excited like a little boy after meeting with GGS. She reminded her husband of his responsibilities toward his family–but we see in the flashback that one of the riot police struck him on the head with a baton and he’s knocked out, possibly even dead. It’s an intense scene, as the screen changes from color to black & white. GGS was there too, and saw what happened. She accuses GGS of inciting the workers:

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They both start crying, and we see a flashback of GGS at the hospital as the doctors try to save her husband–who is Cheol Seung. GGS is a bloody mess himself, and full of fury at what happened to the guy. This scene is interspersed with LSI happily going to work on a sunny day, as GGS narrates that the sharpest one comes out first–and gets destroyed first too.

LSI goes over to GGS’s office to announce the victory of JC–and gets to see something he (or I) didn’t bargain for:

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Whoa! Is that an IV bag hanging from the coat rack? What is this deal? GGS sleeps as it’s revealed he’s got a tube in him:

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OMG. What happened here?  There’s another bag with some frightening looking yellow cloudy liquid on the floor….LSI is in shock as GGS wakes up and asks him:

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GGS says he has to do this 4 times a day….hmm. Dialysis? Yep–chronic kidney failure. LSI asks when this happened, and we get the devastating answer:

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GGS explains that the previous government in charge–the one in charge while LSI was in the military BTW–was responsible. He chastises LSI, saying to not look at him with admiration. He doesn’t deserve it.

I should warn readers/viewers that the next scenes are extremely intense. No pictures, sorry.

In a dark room with the sound of water dripping, someone asks when GGS got back from North Korea….he has been there, right? OMG, is this a South Korean government sanctioned torture and interrogation session? Do they think he’s a commie? I am chilled to the bone. It’s really dark and we can’t see much until finally we see GGS hanging by his feet upside down (now that scene in Episode 4 at the playground makes perfect sense) as the guards chatter about their day to day lives. One of the guards opens the door, bright light floods in, and we see a much younger GGS bleeding and beat to a pulp, hanging upside down and begging the guard, “Please…” as the guard says it’s time to go to work…..

The first time I watched this episode, I put the show on pause and took a walk outside to think about all of this for a while. I wonder when this happened? Maybe in the ’80’s? I’m guessing yes only because GGS appears to be in his late 40’s to early 50’s, so that would put him in his early to mid-twenties during that period. I know this show is based on the RL struggles of the leader of the E-Mart Labor Union, so I could guess that the inclusion of the torture scene is also reality based. More research needed. Here’s a link to some info on the labor union struggles in 1987, and another link to a post which gives important historical background to the labor issues in Korea between 1987 and 2007. Regarding GGS’s kidney failure due to trauma–from everything I read, it’s certainly possible. He’s lucky to be alive if he got beaten that bad.

Cut to So Jin taking the tube out as GGS wakes up from the nightmare:

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She holds up the cloudy bag of liquid, and says that he will have to go to the hospital when it starts to turn brown….umm, shouldn’t he be getting dialysis regularly in a hospital or clinic? She tells him to go back to sleep, and she leaves to visit the guitar playing ahjussi from Episode 4 who is repairing the Cherokee. She asks a question:

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That’s not “if” but “when”, I’m afraid! Ahjussi declares the car to be junk, and that driving it is asking for an accident! TBH, it does look ready for the Pick-a-Part yard. BTW, laying on the cardboard under the car–that’s exactly how I’ve seen my boys do it when they have to go to Pick-a-Part for car parts. He asks how GGS is and So Jin says that he stubbornly drives all over the place no matter what. Ahjussi makes a great observation: The Cherokee and GGS:

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Meanwhile, back at Fourmis Mart, Head Manager Song (aka Jabba) gets his feet held to the fire about the burgeoning labor union at the Il Dong Fourmis Mart by one of the French managers named Oliver. They speak English, but they are both hard to understand. Manager Song swears there is no labor union at that store and Oliver tells him to keep an eye on things. I hate how these French managers would never dare to go against a union at home, but Korea is fair game and open season.

KM and JC want to talk to LSI for a minute…but it now looks as if LSI has merited a nosy security guard to track him:

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Side story: My 3 readers know I’ve had a great deal of trouble collecting the court ordered child support from my children’s father. The authorities have been less than helpful–I’d even say they are antagonistic to me. I’ve had caseworkers call me a slut and a whore for having so many kids–never mind that my three kids all have the same father and we were married at the time they were conceived. A few years ago, I went down to the county office to discuss my case in person. There was an armed policeman who walked up and stood in the doorway of the room the entire time I was there with the caseworker. I asked to close the door so I could discuss my case privately. It bothered me that the officer was obviously getting his rocks off listening to my story. The caseworker refused. I asserted that I had a right to privately discuss my case without intimidation–and a policeman with a loaded gun outside the door listening in was pure intimidation. I left and filed a formal complaint; there was no help or resolution, which did not surprise me. Bureaucratic entities typically exist to protect their own and create justification for their existence.

LSI, KM and JC take note of the security guard and move the meeting to the rooftop. KM observes:

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He thinks this is a great opportunity to get the workers to join up. JC says that the whole incident showed that the Fourmis management:

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#truth

The boys pitch the concept of “Let’s go big or go home”, but LSI has a different objective in mind:

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LSI informs KM and JC that GGS will be coming by the store to do some labor law education, which seems to fire the boys up even more, until KM reminds JC that he still got a reprimand over the whole Young Kwang Fish Company incident!

In another fine scene from the cinematography files, it looks like GGS is in big trouble with So Jin:

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Yeah, that can’t possibly be a good idea! He denies the accusation, but So Jin’s got proof, as she shows him a shunt. She asks:

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The subbers give a translation of the red vest So Jin wears:

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GGS wonders why she wears this vest all the time, and So Jin says it’s because she’s gained weight and it hides her ‘love handles’. SMH. He doesn’t buy it and neither do I. GGS asks if she’s holding out, and So Jin replies that she will see it through all the way to the end. There is a flashback to a younger So Jin with her natural hair color riding in a van. She narrates that after high school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do. She thought she’d figure it out on the fly, plus she was pretty–so that was a good enough plan. She ends up working at an electronics factory where her coworkers were tired, indifferent and slightly hostile. The workers were easily replaced for any and all reasons, and were notified like this:

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So Jin befriends Mi Ran, a coworker and helps her set up a blog and eventually a website for the San Jin workers labor union. She didn’t really do it out of altruistic reasons; she didn’t consider herself to be a good person like that:

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One day GGS gives a labor law education class to the San Jin workers with a rather perplexing instructional cartoon. There are 3 toilets, and huge lines for each one. One line seems to be moving a bit faster than the others. How could this problem be solved in a reasonable manner? He proposes the following: One single line for everyone. Okay, that’s fair. Or, how about build more toilets? (Shamrockmom is always in favor of more toilets!) He accurately calls out the swindlers and the blame-gamers, who say things like, “I know a special secret to figuring out the fastest line.” or “My needs are more important than yours.” and “Everybody has to wait. It’s just the way it is. Nothing will ever change.” Here’s the bottom line:

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If an individual tries to fix this problem, no matter what is done, someone still suffers. So Jin has her own opinion:

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GGS agrees with her–but adds this reality check:

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Temporary work means lower wages, no worker’s comp, no benefits….and it’s hard to join a union to get protection. Temporary workers are more likely to be the working poor, have health issues that go unattended because time off work=job loss, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut:

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GGS adds that temp workers get fired first when the economy goes south. They work the hardest, are paid the least and are fired with a text message. Then what? It’s difficult to acquire new skills or go back to school. There’s no guarantee that you can get a better job anyways. Longer period of unemployment=more difficulty in finding permanent work. Also, if you are unemployed for a while, you go into more debt….making things even more difficult. If a worker finds a job, he/she is petrified to lose that job, and the employer knows this and takes advantage of that fact.

Side note: This last sentence is one part of what has destroyed my profession over the last 25+ years. In recent years, For-profit dental hygiene schools (instead of the state-run school which was the only option back in my day) turn out tons of new dental hygienists with insane levels of student loan debt. I’m talking about $90K+ for a 18-24 month program. The academic criterion for enrollment at the for-profit schools are also much less than for a state-run school, and the duration of the schooling is less, so these schools are quite popular. The new Dental Hygienist is under pressure to find a job ASAP to start paying off the student loans. The local dentists benefit from a glut of hygienists who undercut each other to have a job–any job. Once they have a job, unscrupulous dentists ask them to do all kinds of shady and even outright illegal things. Working conditions are often deplorable, and the hygienist is afraid to say anything. The fear of not having a job and defaulting on the student loans makes them compromise their professional ethics. I would never tell a young college student today to be a dental hygienist–even though I love what I do. How sad is that?

So Jin still isn’t convinced:

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She knows the company acts illegally and treats workers poorly, but who cares? It’s just a temporary job, until something better comes along. Why make a fuss? GGS is disgusted with her attitude:

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She counters that they’re just losers, and GGS says losing is not a crime. We don’t live just to constantly race. Ordinary people should not be constantly punished. She’s still not fully convinced until she gets the Text Message of Doom:

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So Jin says she was even more infuriated than when she was dating some dude out of pity! She tries to get out of showing up at a union meeting, but goes anyway. The San Jin workers join the Korean Metal Workers Union, which So Jin thinks is not ‘pretty’ enough, lol! She ends up getting called back to work. The workers get a few concessions from the company, like air conditioning in the changing room, but things go downhill quickly. A bunch of company-hired thugs come into the room where the women are meeting, grab them and physically drag them out of the plant:

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At first, the newly unionized workers feel hopeful….but as the lockout/strike drags on, it’s replaced with anger and frustration. So Jin’s boyfriend isn’t supportive at all. He has all the compassion of a fencepost:

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He calls her a 3rd class worker working for the benefit of the 1st class permanent workers:

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Was this guy on the Titanic?!?

So Jin heads back to the factory, only to find the union leadership are in a huge fight. Seems an agreement of sorts has been signed, but it’s not good news for the temp workers:

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The company offered to reinstate 75% of the permanent workers. I’m guessing the remaining 25% of the permanent workforce and all the temp workers are shyte outta luck right now. Looks like her boyfriend was correct after all. So Jin leaves as the union leadership folks duke it out over the terms of the agreement. Things deteriorate further, as the Scarface guard from Episode 4 and his minions harass So Jin:

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#No

So Jin has had enough for today:

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#well done!

Scarface and his minions continues to hassle her as she walks away:

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*headdesk*

Back to the present, as GGS asks So Jin why she hangs around the Labor Law Center. Maybe it’s time for her to move on. She answers him back with the bus metaphor: What about the people whose destination is the bus stop? If the bus doesn’t stop, then what? GGS gets it–she’s talking about looking after him. He calls her “a good person”, which she denies. Then So Jin asks him–why are you doing this? He’s smart and a convincing talker:

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GGS remembers hearing those same words from the guy who was torturing him….Back in the present, GGS understands that his persuasive words have a profound affect on people:

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And that they will all have a better world to live in. But deep down, he knows nothing will really change. Maybe he is indeed a con man. So Jin refutes this:

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I think it’s interesting that So Jin is obviously a big supporter of the Labor Law Center now, when it was clear she was less than convinced of the need for it a while back.

Back at the rooftop parking area of Fourmis Mart, LSI confronts the Security Guards/Hired Thugs the company has sent to hassle the employees:

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He informs the guards that they are interfering with the Union’s activity, and that this is an unlawful labor practice. LSI can’t get them to move out of the way, even with some pushing and shoving. KM interrupts and asks LSI if GGS forgot about the meeting. LSI calls GGS, and when he answers, he sounds so ill that LSI asks if he’s okay. From a distance, there’s the sound of a car engine….the Cherokee pulls up to the rooftop with a big screech, the intense BGM begins, and GGS steps out of the vehicle like a total badass!

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Love the lighting and long shadows in this scene

Which reminds me of another great badass rooftop arrival scene from “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift”!

KM is excited! Bet he’d watch “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” with me….maybe after the meeting:

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GGS rubs his face and takes a deep breath as all the Fourmis Mart workers assembled on the rooftop turn around to see what’s going on. He seems to summon some kind of super-human energy as he declares:

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#well done

 

What a great episode! The last half dragged a little bit after the amazing first half, but it’s a minor quibble on my part. I enjoyed the additional backstory on GGS and So Jin in this episode as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Work and other things ‘Well Done’: Thoughts on Episode 5–“Awl”

  1. Pingback: AWL. JTBC. | IKurate

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